What's your favourite food? Hamburgers? Pasta? Whatever it is, do you think you would enjoy it if you had to eat it every morning and evening for a week? How about two weeks? Most people would start to go off the food, and not want to eat it anymore. Furthermore, they would be missing out on vital nutrients not present in the meal.
The exact same thing applies to dogs, although you may be surprised at how many owners do not realise that their pet needs variety in their diet. Often, you will find owners feeding their pet the same type of dog food every day for the whole of their life.
This is not only boring, and one potential cause of dogs begging for human food, it is also bad for the dog's health. While a lot of foods are nutritionally-balanced, many are not. This means that if you do not supplement your dog's diet with the vitamins and minerals they need, then they will not be getting their full complement of nutrients.
This is especially important if you are feeding your dog the BARF diet. While this is a very healthy diet for your dog, it requires you to add in a good deal of variety in order to make sure your pet is getting all the nutrients they need for a healthy and active life.
Mixing your dog's diet up is easy, whether you are feeding them raw, dry or frozen dog food. The first step is to mix up the main ingredient. Try to give your dog as much variety as possible. Do not just switch from beef to lamb and back; really switch up their diet so that every meal is exciting.
You could go from red meat to poultry to fish to white meat, and repeat that cycle. If you have more control over your dog's diet due to following a food plan such as the BARF diet, you could switch up the other ingredients as well. Change the carbohydrate source, for example from rice to sweet potato, and add in a good mix of fruits and vegetables.
One thing to bear in mind is that, although all of this variety is good for your dog's health in the long-term, it can play havoc with their digestive system in the short-term if you are not careful. You should be fine if you are introducing this much variety in your dog's food from an early age, but be careful switching food around with older dogs.
The first time you switch your dog's diet around, do it gradually. Go from a full bowl of the old food to a bowl of three-quarters old and one-quarter new the next day. The day after that give them a bowl that contains half of each, then one-quarter old and three-quarters new, and then they can have a full bowl of the new food.
This way you can avoid any digestive issues from too sudden a change in your dog's diet. Follow this pattern for as long as you like, gradually reducing the transitionary period. For example, after a week you could do it in thirds, then halves, and then just switch over the foods once your dog is used to the changes.
Another thing to bear in mind through all these transitions is the calorie and fat count of the food your dog is being given. It is important to keep this as steady as possible. This is usually easy with prepackaged food, although you will still need to check, however you will need to pay closer attention to portion sizes if you are using a raw food diet.
Large variations in the calorie and fat count can lead to your dog not having enough energy if you go too far below what is required, or gaining weight if you go too far above. Keep an eye on what they are eating, and try to keep it balanced and healthy.
Giving your dog a varied diet requires a little more effort on your part. However, it will be worth it in terms of the quality of your dog's life, their health and even their behaviour.
Written by: Hannah Dyball